Not owning a Nintendo 64 growing up I didn’t have a chance to play Majora’s Mask for a long time. The closest I got before the Gamecube limited re-release was watching my friend Dave play it on his N64. I didn’t care much for the 3-day cycle at the time, but playing through Majora’s Mask 3D it’s becoming one of my favorite Zelda games.
Being the direct sequel to Ocarina of Time, the story picks up right after Link finished traveling through time and saving the future (and the present, I think). One of the things Majora’s Mask does well is Link’s maturity having just come from his Ocarina of Time adventure.
Gone is the kid who didn’t even want to get out of bed that one fateful morning, replaced by the Hero of Time who saved Hyrule, a now seasoned adventurer. Little things like Link’s flips while jumping from platform to platform to Link’s ability to now wield the bow and hookshot while not an adult. The shield he uses is a full metal shield, similar in design to the Hylian Shield he wielded as an adult, ditching the much weaker Deku Shield. There are gameplay related reasons to be sure, since they didn’t want to restrict the player from using any of the better (and cooler) items just because they don’t play as Adult Link, but it’s a nice touch that goes along with the story as well. He knows how those items work now that he’s used them, and he’s got much more experience even though he went back to the point where he was a child once more.
Even the fairy situation shows he’s in charge now. In Ocarina of Time, Navi was instructed by the Great Deku Tree to watch over Link as his fairy. Navi accompanies Link throughout the game guiding him along, providing information and assistance when needed, and generally trying to push Link toward his destiny.
Fast forward to Majora’s Mask and Navi is gone, Link ending up in Termina because he was searching for Navi in the first place. In her place, Link ends up with Tatl, the initially hostile and grouchy fairy who picked on Link with her brother and Skull Kid. She only works with him because she’s forced to, using him to reunite with her brother, and nothing more. As the situation with the Moon and Termina’s impending doom become apparent, Tatl freaks out and looks to Link for help, rather than the other way around like with Navi. Link is the one with the plan now, he knows how to handle situations like these, he’s the Hero of Time after all.
Tatl changes her tune once Link defeats the first temple, Woodfall. She compliments him once they leave the temple, even asking if he’s done this before, before finally apologizing for being such a prick to him earlier. She finally starts to trust him and becomes his partner in the adventure, rather than his mentor or guide. Link just whooped a giant monster’s ass single-handedly, proving he’s not just some dumb kid with a sword and shield.
All of these things tie together into Link’s development, showing the player that Ocarina of Time happened and mattered, and Link isn’t taking his responsibilities lightly. That and it’s way better than using fucking Deku Sticks for the entire game.